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Crowded Rooms With Poor Ventilation Key in Coronavirus Spread

Facility managers can focus on air flow to protect building residents from COVID-19

July 8, 2020

By now everyone is familiar with the drill to protect themselves from coronavirus: wash your hands, wear a mask, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, and social distance. But a group of scientists is calling for more attention to be paid to ventilation measures, CNN reports.

This group of more than 200 scientists wrote an open letter to appeal for better recognition of the potential airborne transmission of coronavirus. The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 can be spread by droplets that go up in air and can float around for some time. The scientists believe most public health organizations, including the World Health Organization, have not focused on the airborne transmission of the coronavirus so as not to panic people. However, there are simple and effective measures building managers can take to improve air flow and reduce the amount of virus droplets in the air. These measures, which are listed in the scientists’ letter, include: 

  • Provide sufficient and effective ventilation (supply clean outdoor air, minimize recirculating air) particularly in public buildings, workplace environments, schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.
  • Supplement general ventilation with airborne infection controls such as local exhaust, high efficiency air filtration, and germicidal ultraviolet (UV) lights. Place UV lights high up in the ceiling to avoid damage to people’s eyes and skin.
  • Avoid overcrowding, particularly in public transport and public buildings.

The scientists say simple steps, such as opening both doors and windows, can dramatically increase air flow rates in buildings. Carbon monoxide detectors are a useful tool in helping facility managers determine if the air is being refreshed properly. Indoor air with 1,000 parts per million of carbon dioxide content or less shows a good ventilation rate.

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